Sunday, June 29, 2008


I received several magazines free in the last year. And I subscribed to a couple more. What to do with old magazines?? I tried keeping them for a while, but getting back to them never really happens.

I started a filing system for teaching ideas a long time ago where I have different files for each month, for different subjects/themes and for projects to make. I decided to rip out articles from the magazines that were worthwhile to save, as well as interesting pictures. About a month ago I went through probably 20 saved magazines and took them apart. I saved recipes and put them in either my recipe binder or the food/nutrition file. I also categorized the interesting photos into different files, such as kids, kids and adults, interesting scenes, and animals. I hope to use them for writing, storytelling, puzzles, posters and what ever other ideas I can come up with for teaching. I also pulled any craft ideas and filed them in my art activities file unless they fit into a certain month or theme. I know that having this organized will just make it so much easier when I go back to teaching. I don't have a lot of extra time right now to do it, but I have more now than I might have down the road.

Magazines include:
American Baby
Baby Talk
Wonder Time
Family Fun
Everyday Food
Parent and Child (Scholastic)

Redbox Movies

Sticking with a way to rent movies for free, I found this from Redbox and decided to give it try yesterday. I used the promo code for new customers. It was really easy to use and we rented "10,000 BC." We did have to return the movie by 9 p.m. the next day, but it was free. I'm not sure if the other codes will work or not. But I wanted to pass along that the new customer code REDBOX does work!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New blog title

I thought long and hard about a new blog title. I really created the other just so I could get rolling with my blog. I finally came up with something I like -- Reflections from a Mother's Soul. I hope it epitomizes what I'm doing here - reflecting on my life and sharing part of my soul. Seems a little more deep than "Mommy's Timeout." I'm keeping the address the same, so you don't need to go looking for that to change at all.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Borders Perks

This one I came across accidentally and it's kinda a long process to get there.

I signed up for the Borders Rewards program, which you have to do in the store. Then I logged in my card number online. Within a few days I was given an e-mail for Borders Perks. Borders Perks rotates stores, but has hundreds of online stores listed with free shipping codes, percentages off and other deals. Examples are JC Penny, Target, Gap, Land's End, Macy's, Nordstroms, Toys R Us, Alamo,, Nike, and tons more. It's very legit and I used a 10 percent off at Target a few months ago. If you can work a free shipping deal with a percentage off it's well worth it.

I also get coupons for Borders, which is also affiliated with Waldenbooks, as a member of the Border's Rewards program.

What's Baking -- Chocolate Chip Bars

I made these tonight and thought I would share a sweeter recipe. They are really good. The batter spreads thin in the pan, but it rises well. It can be doubled for thicker bars, just be sure to lengthen the bake time. This recipe came from Betty Crocker's Cookie Jar Cookbook.

Chocolate Chip Bars
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened (1 stick) -- I use Blue Bonnet margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts -- I use pecans
6 oz chocolate chips -- I use about a cup

* Heat oven to 375 degrees.
* Grease 13x9x2 inch baking pan.
* Mix sugars, margarine, and vanilla.
* Beat in egg.
* Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.
* Mix in nuts and chocolate chips.
* Spread dough in pan.
* Bake until light brown around 12 to 14 minutes.
* Cool, cut into bar and eat up. Yummy!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Port Glazed Roast

Like I mention in my Buying Meat post, we eat a lot of roasts. This has been my favorite roast recipe lately. Simple ingredients. Don't let the Port Wine deter you. It lasts a long time for several roasts and the cheaper bottle only costs around $5. I found this recipe on

Port Glazed Roast

5 lb beef or pork roast (any type and size works)
1 tsp salt and pepper
1/2 cup Port Wine
1/4 cup brown sugar

* Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
* Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper.
* Put roast fatty side up on roasting pan.
* Roast for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Less time if roast is smaller.
* Combine port wine and brown sugar in small sauce pan.
* Bring to boil on medium heat.
* Cook sauce until thickens for about 5 minutes and reduces to 1/3 cup.
* Brush glaze on roast after 1 hour and 45 minutes.
* Roast meat for 1 hour or less depending on roast size.
* Baste roast with glaze and pan juices occasionally.
* Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
I sometimes let the meat cool in the fridge and pull it apart for sandwiches.

Babies and the Brain

I find human behavior just fascinating and I have become amazed with the little brains of babies. I worked as a day care teacher for 1-year-olds for a year before going for my degree in Early Childhood Education. I also did a quarter of my student teaching with 1-year-olds. And I am always surprised by what those little ones know. In fact when my daughter was born we participated in a brain research study. It tested her brain waves when she heard me (the mom) say "baby" and when a stranger said "baby." The study would take a year or two they told us, and she is in the control group for it.

My daughter is now 10 1/2 months and is showing me her knowledge every day. I thought I would share a few stories of her and the other children I've worked with who all were under 2 years of age.

My daughter
Recently, I began reading "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?" every day to my daughter. She loves it and turns the pages (it's a board book). A couple weeks ago I put green speckled frogs on the felt board. We were reading "Brown Bear" and the page with the frog came up. She looked at the frog in the book and then glanced over to the frogs on the felt board. I love watching those connections.

She does sign language. Milk and more are the most common ones we use.

She recognizes songs within the first couple notes.

She has an Elmo toy that plays music. It had been put away for a few weeks. When I brought it back out she started singing "BINGO" with the music.

Other 1-year-olds
When I worked at the day care. I would take the kids for a walk every day in the summer. I always took the same route for predictability for the kids. One day I turned a corner and two of the little boys started quacking. I looked around and thought what are they quacking at? Sure enough in the middle of the block there was a house that had plastic ducks in the front yard. They quacked from the corner until we got to that house every day.

When I would sing a certain song, one little boy would sign for "more."

There was a little boy who loved to take off just one of his shoes. And leave the other one on. We put his other shoe on all day long. Then a couple other kids started taking off just one shoe. One day during lunch I looked under the table and all 8 of the kids had one shoe off (the same foot, too). Yeah, I think it's safe to say they communicate.

I know I've got more stories and will share them as I remember. Those are some of my favorites.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Traveling with a 10-month-old

We haven't done much traveling since the baby was born. This weekend we did an overnight about 5 hours from home for a family picnic. There was so much preparing and so much unpacking that being organized was key. Just thought I would share a couple of tips that worked for me.

1. I finally figured out how to warm up the bottle at a restaurant. I asked for a cup of hot water. (We normally microwave at home). Both restaurants we went to were very accommodating.

2. I also packed individual eating baggies that included: A disposable bib, a couple dry paper towels, and a spoon in a snack baggie. I used the blue freezer bags from Glad that are a little larger than sandwich baggies. It worked well. When we finished we put the garbage from the baby food in the baggie. I put the spoon back in the small baggie to clean later. I made up one for each meal.

3. I have a purse with one pocket and a zipper that holds a couple diapers, small wipes container, small pad, food, snacks in a snack baggie, the eating bag, and a couple of toys. I use that when we go to restaurants instead of hauling the large diaper bag that has more stuff than I'll need. The purse also has a long strap, so I can easily reach in during a diaper change if there is no where to place my purse (and normally there isn't). I then reloaded my purse for the next stop. Oh, and I found it at Goodwill for $3. It is cloth so I can wash it, too.

4. For the whole trip I limited myself to two diaper bags for the baby. One with toys and bedding, the other with clothes, diapers, lotions, and everything else.

5. I used a Wal-Mart bag to put dirty clothes into.

We had a fun trip. Just a couple of ideas I wanted to share!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hot Chocolate

When I was pregnant I got really nauseous drinking milk. So I drank hot chocolate instead. Since I don't drink coffee, I still drink it every morning. I used to make this fancy recipe with dry milk and powdered sugar, but found an easier alternative.

Hot Chocolate
1 Tbsp Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 cup of milk

I warm the milk up for 1 1/2 minutes. Put the cocoa and sugar on the bottom of the mug. I pour the milk into the mug. Then I stir it with a whisk. Only problem I have with this is that some usually settles on the bottom by the time I get to the last couple drinks. But it still works.

**I think the recipe on the Hershey's Cocoa box says to use 2 Tbsp of sugar and cocoa, but that was too much for me.**

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Buying Meat

Here is one reason I am able to plan my meals a month in advance.

In December we bought half a hog and a quarter cow for $535. Ok that sounds like a lot of money, but it's been a lot of meat. We started with 90 pounds of ground beef alone. So many roasts that I'm still trying to find new ways to cook roast. Lots of steaks, stew meat, pork chops, hams, sausage, and brats. It was a lot of money up front. But it all was under $1.50 a pound. Saving me money during each grocery shopping trip. Ground beef alone is around $3 a pound. Steaks are easily $15 to $20. The best part is the quality of the meat is guaranteed and it tastes really good. No question about whether we purchased something that wouldn't taste good. I still buy chicken -- usually chicken breasts or leg quarters. I usually stock up during a sale. I love having a freezer full of meat and not having to worry if it's going to be an expensive grocery bill because of the meals I planned for the week. If you have the chance to do this, give it a try!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Beef Stew

Crock pot Beef Stew
I got this recipe off of It's the best one we have tried. (My husband doesn't like when I share it because it's so good).

2 lbs. stew meat in 1" cubes
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 c. beef broth
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic
1 medium chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. paprika
4 sliced carrots
3 diced potatoes
1 stalk celery, diced
  • Put meat in crock pot.
  • Mix flour, salt and pepper and add to meat and stir to coat meat.
  • Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix.
  • Cover and cook on Low for 10 to 12 hours or on High for 4 to 6 hours.
  • Stir well before serving.
**Sometimes stew meat is hard to find or too expensive, so I just cut up a beef roast and it works just as good. If it's still a little frozen, it's easier to cut.**

All About the Kids -- Website Reviews


I found this website while I was pregnant and wanted to share ultrasound pictures with lots of people, but didn't really want to e-mail them to everyone. What are you suppose to do with all those pictures people e-mail you? So I searched for an alternative. I found, which is easier than easy to use. And it is free. There is an upgrade that costs some money -- $30 a year. For the free service you get a homepage that includes a journal, guestbook, fun facts, 5 MB of photos (I have about 75 photos upload right now), really cute designs, and the ability to send mass e-mails to family and friends. The upgrade includes more photos, more designs, video feeds, and few other things I didn't seem to need. Anyone who want to showcase their kids online in a private manner should use this site. Highly recommend!

Preschool Express

I found this website when I was looking for a ladybug pattern. There are simple patterns with simple themed ideas. What I particularly like is that the patterns in the Pattern Station are three sizes, giving lots of options to do many lessons with the same shape. There is a variety of songs, art ideas, games and lots more in a really easy way to find and search. I like when I can find what I am looking for without having to click six different links and find out what I want isn't there. Great for finding activities for the preschool child! Highly recommend!

ASL Sign Language

I am a firm believer in teaching communciation at every level. For those who can't talk, they can still communicate with sign language. This webiste gives short video on every day words. I usually go to the ASL for Babies tab on the top. Sometimes the people look a little silly doing the signs, but overall the website provides an excellent tutorial guide on how to do sign language. Highly recommend if you want to learn!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Meal Planning

I love cooking and baking. If I could do it all day long without the clean up, I would. With the little one I quickly realized I needed to plan a variety of meals that took different lengths of prep time. After we moved in October, it became really hard to plan a meal the day of or even plan a week in advance. So much seems to change the dynamics of the day. Especially when I was still nursing.

I made a decision to plan our meals out one month in advance. Of course there is always flexibility. It allows me to plan my shopping trip very easily. I sit down only once a month to plan rather than 4 or more times a month. I don't have to think about the variety of foods. When I don't plan we end up eating easy ground beef meals every night and that gets really old, really fast.

So toward the end of the month I pull up a calendar on a Hallmark program I have (so the calendar at least has some decoration on it). I type up our meals for each day Monday through Thursday. I leave the weekend open because we go out at least once and grill out, too. There are usually leftovers to eat, too. I list the main meal. Sometimes I know how I'm going to prepare it, sometime not. For example, I've been trying many new chicken recipes lately. I'll just put chicken and figure out the recipe the week before. I don't add side dishes because it's usually a vegetable and potato. Those are easy to figure out the day of.

I really like creating a calendar with our meals on it because at a glance I can see what needs to be done for the week or if I need to move a meal around. It's also nice because if on a particular day I know I won't have time to make something due to our schedule, I can just take a meal from another day that week and switch them around because I know I've got the ingredients.

This has saved me tons of time and worry.

Father's Day Extravaganza

I made a book for my husband's first Father's Day. The cover says : "I love my Daddy." I put a picture of him fishing as the sun was setting. Really cool picture. Then I put pictures of my him with our daughter. Each page says "I love my daddy because..." Examples, he hugs me, he takes me to the park, he holds me, etc. The last page says "I love my Daddy because my Daddy loves me." And it has a picture of the two of them cheek to cheek. Really sweet. I laminated the pages, punched two holes and placed two rings through the holes. He really seemed to enjoy it. I had to tell him he couldn't just stuff it away, though. My plan is for it to be book he and my daughter could read together over and over again.

I made him lemon bars on Friday. Yesterday we went to Red Robin (one of his favorite places) and we bought him some more dress pants and shirts at the outlet mall. We then went over to my parents and celebrated with some local pizza.

Right now he's out mowing the lawn, which I wouldn't find enjoyable. But he does. He loads up the IPOD and away he goes for a couple hours or more. He mows the neighbor's too.

That's how our weekend has been going.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Movie Review/Spoiler

Manufacturing Dissent

This movie looks into the life of Micheal Moore, who has done many documentaries. This documentary on him parallels one of his movies. For starters, he refuses to interview for the movie. How many doors has he knocked down to "talk" to someone for one of his movies? Roger and Me was solely about how he was trying to talk to Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors, and how he was turned away every time. Manufacturing Dissent discusses how Moore twists the "facts" to benefit the movie. I've only seen Bowling for Columbine and Sicko. Any intelligent person would be able to see the obvious editing to benefit Moore's point. In Manufacturing Dissent we learn that Moore did not walk out of a bank carrying a gun on the same day he opened an account in Bowling for Columbine. There were 30 days of prep to have that happen as it did in the movie, and the vault with all the guns is many miles away not at the bank as Moore would like us to believe. Editing for purpose is fine with me, but editing and contriving to make money at the expense of others is not. Manufacturing Dissent ends by sharing that Moore did in fact talk to Roger Smith twice during the making of his documentary Roger and Me, which just makes him a liar in my book.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How we save more than $200 a year -- legally

We are big movie watchers, but we refuse to pay $4 or more for a couple hours of watching. We usually watch on average 4 to 6 movies a month. Here's how we don't pay for them (hardly ever).

We rent from either Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. We use cashback bonus rewards from our credit cards to get free movies. Discover has rewards for both. Hollywood Video is a better deal. Only catch is that you can only use one coupon per visit. That actually limits us and is good. We used to go and rent two or three at one time spending a lot in one visit.

I joined and do short surveys. I got an invitation from Northwest Perks to join about two years ago and its by far the only online survey deal that seems legit. You earn money and can cash it in for magazines, reward points, coupons, etc. I cash in my money and can get up to 12 movies a year at Blockbuster. That is one per month. We also get gift cards to rental stores as gifts.

We borrow movies from the library for free. When we lived in Minnesota they charged 50 cents for DVD rentals, but where we are now there is no charge. I got three movies the other night that we wanted to watch -- Sideways (the first movie we ever watched together), Proof, and Manufacturing Dissent. Had I rented at Blockbuster or Hollywood Video there would be $12 out the door. That's $12 that I can spend somewhere else.

That's one of our money saving tips. Why pay for something if you don't have to?

What's Cookin' -- Leftover Ham Recipes

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
(I have used this recipe for years, best one out there)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion ( I sprinkle in onion flakes to save time)
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 cups of thinly slice potatoes (I use Russet)
3 tbsp butter
2 cups milk (I use skim)
Paprika (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees (don't put it any higher or the milk will over flow)
  • Combine onion, flour, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Set aside.
  • Place 1/3 of potatoes in a greased 2 quart baking dish.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 of flour mixture, dot with 1 tbsp of butter.
  • Repeat two more times.
  • Pour milk to barely cover potatoes.
  • Sprinkle with paprika.
  • Bake covered for 45 minutes.
  • Uncover dish and bake for 30 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender.
  • Add cooked ham during the last 15-20 minutes or serve on the side.

Ham & Cheddar Cheese Casserole
(I found this recipe on and it's my new favorite recipe for leftover ham)

2 cups cubed peeled potatoes
1 cup carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cups chicken broth to cover veggies
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 small onion, minced
2 cups fully cooked ham, cubed
7 tbsp butter, divided
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
salt & pepper
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

  • In a sauce pan bring the potatoes, carrot, celery, garlic, onion, broth to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for about 15 mins. Drain, place back in pot.
  • In a skillet, saute the ham in 3 tablespoons of butter until golden brown. Add to the drained potato mixture.
  • In a sauce pan, melt the remaining butter, stir in the flour until smooth. Gradually add milk, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat and add cheese and stir until melted.
  • Pour over potato & ham mixture. Place mixture in a greased 13 x 9 pan.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 25-30 mins. or until heated through. You can sprinkle the top with some of the cheese or bread crumbs.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The importance of play

I read message boards with parents complaining about how their children don't play. Or that they don't like their toys. I truly believe play is the most important part of a child's life after a safe environment to live in. Maybe parents don't know what to do or how to organize play time. And our schools aren't much help anymore as we teach to tests, instead of playing to learn. We have to allow children toys to play with, teach them how to use them and enhance the play by playing with them.

Here's a good article that explains the importance of play in a child's life. (the long version) (the summary)

Monday, June 9, 2008

My daughter's playroom

My daughter is 10 months old and is so interested in everything. I want to share some of the highlights of my daughter's playroom. First, I rotate toys -- especially the stuffed animals. They usually don't get played with too much unless we are singing a song about that animal or practicing animal sounds.

I store her toys in easy to dump containers that I bought at the dollar store. I use flimsy shower caddies that work great as she still chews on everything. They hold just enough toys. I also found large round containers that are nice since there are no corners to bump into. I categorize her toys in the containers as soft books, soft toys, plastic toys, balls, plastic blocks, large beads, soft blocks and soon to come cars. She know where to find them and my hope that it will teach her how to clean up when we get to that phase in a few months.

I recently found a Sesame Street place mat at Walmart for $1 and taped it to the wall at her level. She walks over and talks to it several times throughout the day. I tape interesting pictures onto a gate that is partially covering the cold air return. Right now I have pictures of children -- she walks over and says hi to them once in a while, too. I also had a board book that I tore apart and laminated because it was falling apart. I hung those up in the playroom, too. She loves looking for the pictures.

I have a tunnel that she loves to crawl through and I placed the boppy pillow in it as an extra challenge as she seems to like to crawl over things.

When I was student teaching I made a felt board. I bought a large piece of felt from the leftover bin of cloth at JoAnn fabrics and hot glued it to a large piece of a foam board. I have cut out ducks and frogs that we sing to. I just prop up the felt board for now so she can only look at (not touch for now). I also have a pre-cut felt board with farm pieces that I got from Oriental Trading Company years ago.

One of her favorite toys is this exersauser piano, but we only use the piano part now. It plays songs and we sing along. She always goes over to play the music and dance or jump.

I have a walking toy for her to use that she gets stuck in the corner and has to problem solve how to get it out. Or she yells for help. We're working on the yelling part.

There are several stand alone toys. Shape sorters, Alphabet pal, toys that pop up, rock n' roll ball, and more.

My goal for her playroom is that she can move to the next toy in a safe environment with giving her lots of choices. I do think she would be happy in a room with the just stacker cups, Funny how the simplest things are the most favorite.

Catalog books

The teacher in me searches for children's books wherever I go. I love hitting up garage sales for books (and toys) and Goodwill always has popular, barely used books. I just can't imagine spending $17 for a book when I can get it for under $1 most of the time.

I recently looked around and realized I didn't even know what books I had anymore. I knew I had been collecting books I had read to kids, popular books and books that looked interesting. But I had no way of knowing what types I owned or if I was buying duplicates. Duplicates would be fine for teaching but I had no idea which ones I had. So I decided I wanted to catalog my books.

I found this site and it worked really well. All I had to do was enter the title, then the site searched for the book on Amazon. I clicked on my book and then it was entered into my library. I also put tags on the books such as, winter, teeth, bears, mice. This will be useful for teaching. The first 200 books are free to add (I entered 167 books). Then you can pay a fee. My husband said it's a beta website so it might not be around forever. So I concluded for now not to pay anything.

It gave me an easy way to see what books I have. I printed it out, so if I do find another option (such as using Excel) I can easily enter the data.


I am not a huge fan of this task. But I think I finally have found a system that works for me. My issue is the putting away part, not the sorting, washing, drying, folding -- just putting it away.

Here are my solutions:
1. I presort the laundry with a sorter that has three slots. My daughter's laundry I do with special detergent (due to itchy skin) and keep a hamper in her room. My husband does a pretty good job following the sort. Sometimes I still move clothes around, but it saves a ton of time having the sorter.

2. Now that my daughter is past her infant/spitting up/going through 3 outfits, 4 blankets, 15 spit-up rags, 20 bibs a day phase; I do her laundry every other day. I used to do it every night and fold it in the morning when she played. Now I do about half of that every other day, in the morning, after her bath and put it away after her morning nap.

3. I do our laundry twice a week so the loads aren't overwhelming. Usually Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday. Depends on my schedule for the week. I start the loads really early and my goal is to have it done by 2 p.m., which is plenty of time for interruptions. And then it's done before I start supper.

4. I only use one basket.

5. As soon as the load is done, I take it out of the dryer and move to the room the clothes or towels belong to. I start folding right away and putting them away. I used to take the basket into the living room and sit down, fold, get interrupted and it could take a couple hours to put away. So now when I do a load of towels, I take the basket to the bathroom and as I fold them I put them in the cabinet. It makes for a much easier time and I don't trip on the laundry basket or dread getting that chore done.

That is what has been working for me. It took me months to figure it out. I'm just thankful I'm not in an apartment trying to do laundry in a laundry room with the baby. Boy would that have difficult.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Movie Reviews

This weekend we somehow were able to watch two movies. I thought it would be fun to do some little reviews on movies as I can.

Martian Child
Starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet and Bobby Coleman

This simplistic, wholesome movie was both entertaining and enlightening to watch. A boy from Mars suddenly finds himself being raised by a man who write science fiction novels. David (John Cusack) and Dennis (Bobby Coleman) are two deepfully hurt souls who discover they need each other. Its message of love and abandonment ring loud. I enjoyed the subtle humor and that the story stuck to necessary topics. The ending has a good message that reminds us everything happens for a reason.
Recommendation: If you want a cute, easy to watch movie with little action or drama this is the one.

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets
Nicholas Cage, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger

This movie didn't create the suspense and awe of the first one. Even for as far-fetched and unrealistic as the first one was, it gave great suspense and a wow feeling at the end. I enjoyed the treasure hunting with history again peppered throughout this one. The kidnapping of the president made me roll my eyes, but was still interesting to the story. The humor of Riley will make me watch the third (because they can't have a second without having a third).
Recommendation: It's a good movie to watch with kids, but it's way out there and the plot is much weaker than the first.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fern Grove

This time of year always reminds me of my days as a camp counselor. I worked at a camp in California for two summers and it brought me back on track to working with children. One place at camp was extra special. I found my journals last summer when I finally got around to doing a scrapbook (when I was very pregnant). The following represents Fern Grove -- a place where we talked about fairies, respected nature and did what we could to capture its beauty. I wrote it while I sat in the grove with a group of campers.

The light hits the select few branches in this grove few have been. Oh sure, hundreds of girl scouts pass through each summer, but no one else knows it's here. Hidden deep in the forest, the mighty redwoods share their space with the large overgrown ferns -- thus creating a beautiful, peaceful place. The appreciation lies in the height of the trees, the sounds of the birds, a running stream and the whispers of children working on drawing this amazing place. At a quick glance, it appears that the trees stand straight, but nature isn't that rigid. The angles and loose branches make each view unique, and one could spend hours looking in one spot while seeing a new view each time she blinks. That sunlight not only illuminates certain branches, leaves, trunks and ferns, but also casts shadows that move as slowly as the sun. Those shadows only add to the beauty. It's peaceful and those who spend any time here leave with a new connection to nature. It's impossible to see a whole tree without moving your head, and even when you look as far as you can see, you still don't see it all. A photograph could never capture the feeling one has at Fern Grove. The true essence is met when sitting quietly and escaping into the trees.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thrifty Thursday

Since the cost of everything is going up, up, up. I've been trying to save everywhere I can. Here are a few ideas that help us save some money.

1. Coupons. This is obvious, but I can't believe how much I actually save each week using coupons. At least $5 to $15 on average. My parents are kind enough to save the coupons they get from two Sunday newspapers for us. It takes a little time to go through, cut, and organize. But it's well worth it. I've found that using coupons for only items we normally purchase is best. If we get something just because of the coupon we are a lot less likely to use it and actually waste money. I also try to buy the items I have coupons for when they are on sale.

2. Non-Brand Name Items. I typically am a name brand person (that's why coupons are so valuable), but there are some things we use so much of that we searched for some good off brands.
  • Paper Towels: Target makes a three-tear double paper towel roll that is actually made by Bounty. I can usually get a 6-pack double roll for $6 on sale. Those smaller sheets are useful to have and the roll lasts longer.
  • Tissues (aka Kleenex): Target again makes a good alternative to the traditional Kleenex. And here's the kicker Kimberly Clark makes it. We can't tell the difference. A 3-pack 200 sheet Target brand tissues usually is $1 cheaper than the Kleenex brand.
  • Soups: I use a lot of cream soups and tomato soups with cooking. We found that the taste between Campbells and the off brand taste the same. We usually buy them at the grocery store for about 40 cents cheaper.
  • Milk: We buy the grocery store brand. Usually 50 to 60 cents cheaper.

3. Item Count: This is were they try to trick you. Watch for medicine like Advil or Tylenol to have an extra 25 or more pills per bottle at the same cost. I recently bought the Walgreens Claritin brand for my husband. We got 240 pills for $28. That was the same cost for 90 pills. And boy that's going to last a while, too. I know it's not always easy to buy in bulk because of the cost, but when you can get extra for the same cost it worth it.

Those are just a few money saving tips for this Thursday.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Goulash


1 lb ground beef
1 small onion (I sprinkle dried onion flakes for a shortcut)
1/4 cup of chopped green pepper
1 can of tomato soup
1 can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup of macaroni noodles

1. Brown beef with onion and green pepper. Drain.
2. Boil noodles for 8 minutes while beef is browning. Drain.
3. Mix ground beef, noodles, soup, and stewed tomatoes together. Put stove on medium low and allow to thicken for 15 to 20 minutes.

An easy standby for any night!

My Blog Plan

Can't imagine starting a blog without a plan. I like to stay organized and enjoy having something to look forward to. I imagine my readers would appreciate the same.

Monday: Organizational Monday (how to keep on top of the housework, etc.)
Tuesday: About the Kids Tuesday (parenting techniques, activities and anecdotal stories)
Wednesday: What's Cookin' Wednesday (some of my favorite recipes will be shared)
Thursday: Thrifty Thursday (money saving ideas)
Friday: Anything Goes Friday

I hope you enjoy the blog. Feel free to comment.


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